Beanibazarview24.com Desk, 22 Feb 2017,
Immigration laws leave an estimated 33,000 people unable to remain with spouses in Britain as they do not earn enough to satisfy visa requirement.
Ian Pineda-Andrews met his wife Jackie at the University of Edinburgh. It was meant to be: his father had met his mother at the same institution, and even his grandparents had met there.
But there was a problem. Jackie Pineda-Andrews is American. Under UK law the British spouse must have available funds equivalent to a minimum gross annual income of £18,600. As Ian was still a student, he was too poor to live in his home country with the woman he loved.
The couple are two of an estimated 33,000 people who have been told they cannot bring or remain with their spouses in Britain, because they do not earn enough money.
The government says the minimum income rule is to prevent unqualified spouses coming to the UK and becoming dependent on the state.
“University is a time when people start falling in love, start finding themselves,” said Mrs Pineda-Andrews. “But it’s also the time, and in the years afterwards, when you are earning the least.”
The rules were introduced on 9 July 2012, and every year dozens of couples who have been separated from their partners and children gather outside the Home Office to protest a law which means around 47% of Britons do not earn enough to fall in love with a foreigner.
Don Flynn, of Migrant Rights Network, which hosted the demo along with BritCits, an organisation for affected couples, said the British economy had suffered because of the law. “The government claimed it would save £650m, but research from Middlesex University found that if, as expected, most of these spouses would have found employment, that would have made a contribution of over £850m.”
There was a common thread among those who came to protest on Thursday, regardless of their background. All said that everyone they met thought the law was wrong.
“I live in Ramsgate, the only Ukip council in the country. I’ve spoken to everyone about it, from [people in] the pub to McDonalds. Everyone says it can’t be right,” said Tony Stevens, who came with his Gambian wife Isha. “Marriage is precious. No government, no party has the right to deny me the right to be married to the woman of my choosing. It’s shameful.”
It has taken him and his wife two-and-a-half years and cost them £7,000 to go through the immigration process. “I explained to the Home Office how I’m a carer here, and I look after my mother who cannot walk. Here I can support us both and send money back to her family in Gambia, and everyone benefits,” he said.
“But we’re still told, why don’t you go back and live there instead? It’s immoral, ignorant and it’s class-based. And we still feel soon we’ll have to fight all over again because the rules keep changing.”
Among those protesting were family members with children living abroad, unable to return because of visa laws. “My daughter is in Istanbul with her husband,” said mother-of-two Janet Slack. “She had all the benefits of an education here, health paid for by the taxpayer, and she has the experience and qualifications now. But she had never paid a penny back of her student loan, or in tax since moving to Turkey after university, because she cannot come back with her husband. Britain is losing out, and we have lost our daughter, and our other daughter has lost her only sibling.”
Nigel Johnson brought his 11-year-old stepson Jeff to the protest from north Devon, with the youngster proudly wearing his British public school uniform. Nigel’s wife Burphan, Jeff’s mother, is still in Bangkok.
“We don’t even intend to stay here long term, but we’ve scraped every penny together from the extended family to give this boy a proper British education. In just two years, with English as his second language, he’s top of his class. But of course, he misses cuddles from his mum,” Johnson said.
“I’ve cut grass, I’ve cleaned holiday cottages, I’ve worked six jobs to get my income over the threshold and still we are being turned down.”
The legal fight against the law is now in its final throes. In 2013, the high court found the threshold of £18,600 was too high, with Mr Justice Blake calling the law “unjustified” but it was overturned by the court of appeal and the case is now at the supreme court, due to sit this September. That same month will also see a report from children’s commissioner Anne Longfield examining the effects of the law on children separated from a parent.
But many of the couples at Thursday’s protest who had successfully managed to settle in the UK said they had used a legal technicality known as the Surinder Singh route – after the landmark case.
It paved the way for Britons to work abroad in another European Economic Area country before bringing a non-European spouse to the UK, so EEA law on spouses, which is more generous, can take precedent.
That was the route taken by the Pineda-Andrews. With just a few weeks to go until his wife’s visa expired and the pair would have to separate, Mr Pineda-Andrews took the radical decision to suspend his studies and move to Galway, Ireland for six months with his new wife.
“It was a horrible, lonely time,” Mr Pineda-Andrews said. “I worked in the cafe in this small town where the economy meant all the other coffee shops in the entire town had closed down by the time we left. We had no money, and we couldn’t afford to visit family, no one lived there who was our age. But it was worth it.”
Mrs Pineda-Andrews said the system had coloured her view of Britain. “I experienced so much bigotry, to be with the person I love.” She smiled as she held up her passport, with the British visa inside. “We are still fighting because we want change, I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. Well, maybe on Theresa May.”